Paul Schrader has written some of the most iconic movies ever released, from “Taxi Driver” to “Raging Bull,” and yet he only just received his first Oscar nomination in 2019. Schrader finally landed in the Oscar race with his acclaimed drama “First Reformed,” which is nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The writer-director reacted to his historic Oscar nom in a brief interview with the Los Angeles Times, and he didn’t take long to throw some shade toward the Academy and its past choices.
“That’s a very complex question,” Schrader said when asked how it felt to land his first Oscar nomination. “If the critics had not liked my film and if the academy had not liked my film, I would still know it was a good film. So my validation is not contingent on the academy or the critics. On the other hand, it is very heartening to realize that other people acknowledged what you tried to do.”
Schrader said he has never thought about the Oscars throughout his career, and therefore it doesn’t bother him that it took so long to finally nab a nomination. The director said he was the opposite of Martin Scorsese, who was “very fixated on winning an Oscar.” Schrader once told Scorsese, “Marty, look, if an Oscar is your priority, you need some new priorities.”
“I felt that then; I felt that now,” Schrader said. “You know, this is a very difficult conversation because I have never really respected the Academy for their choices. On the other hand, I’m enormously gratified that they have selected me. So you live in a kind of conflicted world. Where on one hand you say it truly doesn’t matter. And on the other hand you say, ‘Well, I guess it does matter.’”
While Schrader earned an Oscar nomination for “First Reformed,” his leading actor Ethan Hawke did not. Hawke was named Best Actor by numerous critics groups, including NYFCC and LAFCA, and he won the Best Actor prize at the Gotham Awards earlier this year. Alas, the actor was snubbed by the Academy. Following the announcement, Schrader said he got on the phone with Hawke and shared a crucial bit of words.
“If [First Reformed] wasn’t recognized, it would also be gratifying,” Schrader said. “I just got off the phone with Ethan Hawke, and I said, ‘Ethan, you’ve won. You may not have gotten nominated, but you won. Your performance has made an impact, and never forget that.'”
“First Reformed” is now available on demand and is streaming on Amazon Prime.